Solar energy, specifically solar thermal water heating (SWH), is catching on in colder states like Wisconsin, Colorado and Oregon as well as countries like Canada and Germany.
“Many people assume that SWH is not an option for them because they do not live near a scorching desert or by a sun-drenched beach,” said Nigel Cotton, OEM Team Leader of the International Copper Association (ICA) and founder of Solarthermalworld.org, a web community for solar thermal professionals. “However, in a solar thermal system, the energy of the sun is used to heat water in a ‘holding tank.’ This warmed water is circulated to provide hot water throughout the system.While SWH may not be able to provide for all hot water needs in colder climates, it can provide significant savings.”
Colorado home owners are finding cost savings with SWH. According to the Colorado based Center for Resource Conservation, a solar thermal heating system for domestic hot water use can be a long-term cost saving addition for a home. They estimate that when replacing an electric system, SWH can save a household $625 annually. This kind of long-term investment in solar thermal also can pay off for business operations.
A laundromat in Toronto, Canada installed a SWH system that is saving money on energy costs. According to the Canadian Solar Industries Association, the solar thermal system is expected to pay back its investment in less than ten years if energy prices remain stable, but will achieve faster payback as energy prices rise.
“Solar thermal technology is able to capture the energy of the sun and transfer it into heat in many regions around the globe,” says Baerbel Epp, editor of the Solarthermalworld.org newsletter. “It is helpful for families and businesses to explore the different ways of using the free-of-charge energy from the sun no matter where they live.”